It’s Just Basic Manners
Local influencer calls a Foreign Domestic Worker a f-king b*tch.
Manners — something we claim others lack while often wrongly assuming we always have. Such is the case as our nation weathers the devastating effects of a virus that sounds like an industrial strength solvent and kills like one.
Influencer Jessica Loh, or Basic Bella, who became the subject of an article published in The Asian Parent recently, was criticized over a series of Instagram stories where she ranted about coming across her maid “sneakily eating” food in the kitchen meant for her friend’s birthday feast. Describing her maid’s tone as “irritated” and “aggressive” when confronted with the transgression, she went on to educate her on manners, showing us the importance of establishing sound food-sharing policies with your maid as our economy reels from the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s just basic manners,” she wrote in one post, which would have been a non-story were it not for other things she also said about her maid, referring to her as a “fucking bitch” and a “lying cunt” over an incident where her maid ate half a bowl of “my fucking beehoon” — her words, not mine.
But who are we to judge her healthy relationship with her maid and her terms of endearment for people she knows. Perhaps there is more of her sage-like wisdom on Instagram.
Here is a photo of her laughing at a joke a mixer said. #ShutterStockSenseOfHumor
Here are Basic Bella and her friends blocking an entrance. #CheerLeaderEffect
Here is Basic Bella without any makeup, I presume. #MyFuckingBeeHoon #Scary #CosplayingMySoul
Here is either a phallic-shaped cake she baked for erotic purposes, or what looks like a very uncomfortable sex toy she was promoting. I might be wrong either way. #UnicornHorn #AnythingCanBeADildoIfYouAreBraveEnough
If you are like me, with nothing better to do with your reclaimed right to sit at a HDB void deck and stare bleakly into your future, check out the full article here. However you may judge Basic Bella’s indiscretions, the point of this post is actually not immature adults who think they have basic manners but are actually basic.
This post is actually about FDWs —not some structured credit solutions — but Foreign Domestic Workers. As of December 2019, there are 261,900 FDWs working in Singapore. An undeniably important part of our workforce, they relieve the pressures of parenting and caregiving of the sick, elderly and disabled in our families. But what are their defined job scope? And what are they entitled to, apart from the right to school us in the art of picnicking in our urban landscapes? #PicnicLikeABoss
First of all, their defined job scope is this: FDWs can only perform household and domestic duties. Guaranteed they are not specialized workers, but that’s still pretty vague for those of us without maids, or anyone who slept through their FDW Employers’ Orientation Programme.
To clarify, they are not supposed to give your plants a haircut, bathe your car, repair your IKEA cabinet or your failed marriage, or tell your little Einstein that 2 + 2 is not equal to 5. In short, gardening, car washing, repair work, marriage counseling and tutoring are not their responsibility, and so is being a human ashtray or a punching bag.
So what are they entitled to? Frankly, not a lot.
For instance, their salary may be as low as $570 per month unless they have caregiving certificates. For a comparison, the median gross monthly income of full-time employed residents in 2019 is about $3650 after CPF deductions. That’s 6 times more and yet some of us still struggle with our expenses, like car payments, condo mortgages, the latest iPhone or a trip to Europe. #LifeIsHard
FDWs are also entitled to only one weekly rest day, which you might argue is adequate. You may be entitled to say that if you’re a laborer, a construction worker, a single mom holding down two jobs to make ends meet, or even a hardworking CEO whose concern for his company’s stakeholders outweighs his concern for his own health. But you’re forgetting something: you don’t live in your fucking office. But they do. For FDWs, they may be asked to be compensated for a reduction in their number of rest days so as to provide care to an employer’s household member. On top of that, they may be pressured to remain at home during their rest days due to an employer’s trust issues. For the latter, I’ve no sources to back up my claim except someone with a maid actually told me so.
Employers must also provide FDWs with 3 nutritious meals a day, adequate accommodation, including basic amenities, such as a mattress, pillow, blanket, bathroom amenities and toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. On top of that, employers must ensure that their FDWs work safely and cover their medical and personal insurance and bear the full cost of any medical care, including hospitalization.
“That’s a lot they are entitled to,” you might say, “I don’t even get free instant coffee at work.” Well then, I suppose you would like to trade places with them and earn as much as they do.
Despite the working conditions for FDWs improving over the years, Singapore can do better in defining domestic workers’ duties rather than leaving them at the mercy of their employers’ demands. In light of the living conditions of foreign working dormitories, we should also not forget about FDWs, given their contributions to our society and the art of picnicking as we venture outdoors again.
With the ongoing pandemic and the police brutality in America, it underscores the need for us to deal more kindly with one another — even FDWs who allegedly stole “our fucking beehoon”.
This brings us back to Basic Bella, who denigrated her maid on Instagram and probably not the ideal person to work with for a courtesy campaign. She has worked with brands like Estée Lauder, Nivea, Singtel, Samsung, Universal Studios, Eu Yan Seng, Resort Worlds Genting, and even Philips.
Yes. Philips. To any of the 261,900 FDWs out there reading this, a brand that sells your home-office appliance also worked with someone who openly mocked and insulted one of you. Yeah, remember that the next time you use one of their products to cook something for mum.
Having said that, no one is perfect, and I hope Basic Bella resolves any conflict she has with her maid amicably without feeling entitled to shame her on social media. After all, that’s not the image of Singaporeans the rest of us want the world to see. And just as she has transformed herself physically, as evident in this photo she posted of herself from 4 years ago, we hope to see her make great strides mentally, exercising restraint and the basic manners she preach in the next 4 years of her adult life.
Side note: Calling a low wage domestic worker a bitch and a cunt aside, I actually enjoyed this photo of a bunny wearing a piece of bread as a bib. In my opinion, #bennythebunz is the only saving grace in a sea of cringeworthy photos and taglines on her Instagram page. But what can you expect from a person whose job is as meaningful as a A4-sized poster.
In conclusion, I wish there were more photos and videos of #bennythebunz in his carbohydrate bib to teach us all to be kind to one another despite our individual shortcomings. Sadly, Benny is already looking down on us from rabbit heaven.
If you’re interested to know more about the treatment of migrant workers in Singapore, be sure to check out HOME and Transient Workers Count Too, two NGOs dedicated to helping migrant workers in Singapore.